VIDEO: Scott Brock Interview
JEFFERSON CITY, Tenn. - This is the seventh part in an eight-part series chronicling each of Carson-Newman football's positions. Scott Brock details the Eagles' linebackers for this report.
Carson-Newman's linebacking corps loses a first-team All-SAC selections and one of the best in Carson-Newman history at getting into opposing backfields in Temoris Coats. Coats produced a whopping 18 tackles for loss last year, the third highest total for a single season in Carson-Newman history.
However, Antonio Henderson has been waiting in the wings these past two years to be the bailiwick of the C-N linebackers.
"Antonio knows that this is his time," Brock said. "He's come a long way fundamentally. We look forward to seeing what he's going to do this season."
For a second consecutive year, Henderson finished second on the team in tackles. He wrapped up the year with 67 stops, including 10.5 tackles for loss and 2.5 sacks. He also logged a forced fumble and a blocked kick.
A modicum of consistency on defense, Henderson had at least five stops in nine of the Eagles' 11 games. His season high came in the opener against West Florida when he had nine stops, including six solo tackles. He matched that in week 10 against Lenoir-Rhyne (11/3).
He also had an eight-tackle day against Limestone (10/6). Henderson produced multiple tackles for loss against Virginia Union (2.0), Limestone (2.0) and UNC Pembroke with a career high 3.0. He blocked his lone kick of the year against Lenoir-Rhyne (11/3). He forced a fumble against Wingate (9/15).
Rondrow Peebles has stepped up to fill the void left by Coats at the mike linebacker.
"When he was in high school, he was a strong safety," Brock said. "He's grown into an outside linebacker, now he's grown into a mike linebacker. He's talented and athletic. We had to get him in the middle so he can run sideline to sideline. He's also taken a leadership role. He's really stepped up his game in that area."
Reserve linebacker who appeared in all 11 games for Carson-Newman last year. Peebles produced nine tackles, had 1.5 tackles for loss and recovered a fumble. Peebles best effort came against Virginia-Lynchburg with three stops, a half tackle for loss and a fumble recovery.
He has been impressive in C-N's preseason scrimmages, totaling a scoop and score and five tackles for loss across the two events.
Zack Fuller and Alonzo Houston also both return after coming into their own as freshmen last year.
"Both Zack and Zo are team players," Brock said. "They step up when their name is called. Zack is an exceptional athlete. Zo has the heart of a lion, he's tough and can go sideline to sideline."
Fuller made an impact as a freshman linebacker, appearing in the final 10 games of the season with eight starts. He finished the year with 24 tackles, 3.0 tackles for loss and 2.5 sacks. He broke up a pass and was tied for the team lead for quarterback hurries with five.
Fuller made an impact in week two at Virgina Union (9/8) with eight tackles. He wrapped up the season with a five-tackle performance at UNC Pembroke. He had solo sacks against Virginia-Lynchburg (10/20) and Tusculum (10/27).
Houston exploded onto the scene in his first start against Wingate (9/15) by earning both SAC and TSWA Defensive Player of the Week honors against the Bulldogs. He is Carson-Newman's first defensive player of the week from the league office since defensive back Jason Williams earned the honor following the Eagles' penultimate regular season game in 2015.
Houston led Carson-Newman's defense with nine tackles, two tackles and a pick. He was an instrumental part of a unit that held Wingate to an eight-possession series where the Bulldogs picked up six three-and-outs and were intercepted (once by Houston) twice.
The Eagles limited the Bulldogs to just 66 yards rushing, less than half their season average. They also held the SAC's second-leading rusher Dom McNeil to 79 yards on 20 carries. He entered the game averaging 119 yards on the ground. He also turned in a six-tackle day against Lenoir-Rhyne (11/3). Houston finished the year with 32 tackles.
Finally, the Eagles add in 6-0, 220-pound freshman Daniel Dixon-Brooks, who transfers in from Newberry.
Dixon-Brooks annihilated the Christ Church Episcopal School record books. He finished his career with more than 600 tackles. He also had 40 tackles for loss and 35 sacks. He earned all-state honors his final three years. Dixon-Brooks also played basketball and baseball while running track and field. He helped CCEP to four straight state titles and a 55-game winning streak.
Carson-Newman's position previews wrap up Thursday with the defensive line.